By Kristina Houck
After hearing varied opinions from community members, the Solana Beach City Council on July 10 decided to postpone its vote on a proposed Eden Gardens mixed-use development project.
The plan proposes the construction of one building with a retail/office space on the first floor and a home on the second floor, as well as three detached townhomes, on a 10,874-square-foot lot at 636 Valley Ave.
Two speakers argued against the project in fear of changing the historic neighborhood, inadequate parking and increased traffic. All four buildings are designed higher than 30 feet, with the tallest at almost 35 feet. The plan designates 14 parking spaces, five for the retail/office space, two for each home and a guest space.
“We just feel like this building is way too large to maintain the character of our community,” said Lisa Montes, whose family moved to Eden Gardens in 1927. “It is smack in the middle of Valley Avenue. “When I saw the [story] poles go up, my heart broke because my mom and my family have been in this community, I work with the community’s families and I want to oppose it. I hope that you consider opposing it.”
Three other speakers approved of the project.
“We see it as a really good contribution to our community there and for all the businesses there as well,” said Gabriel Granados Jr., a 45-year resident of Eden Gardens and manager of Don Chuy Mexican Restaurant on 650 Valley Ave. “I hope that the council sees it the same way.”
Eden Gardens resident Danny Hernandez noted that the developer, Sea Breeze Properties, changed the project designs upon his request.
“Sea Breeze came up to us and they were really forthcoming,” Hernandez said. “They actually moved the retail/office away from our property. We just asked us once and they did it.
“They’ve been very good neighbors listening to our concerns.”
Noting the design changes for the Hernandez family, Project Manager Joshua Lichtman said he and his team reached out to the community and listened to concerns.
“We were out there, we spoke to a lot of them and we incorporated their ideas into our design,” Lichtman said.
Still, council members agreed that more changes could be made to the plan to better the project and set a precedent for future projects. Proposed changes included lowering the height of the buildings, adding parking spaces and incorporating bicycle racks.
“When you’re speaking about this project, these potential homes, you’re referring to them as product,” said Councilwoman Lesa Heebner. “This is a neighbor; this is Eden Gardens, a very special place. I, frankly, am not very comfortable with the way it’s being developed.
“One of the things we have to look at is future development, potential development. Is this going to be a standard for that?”
Mayor Mike Nichols echoed Heebner’s concerns.
“There may be some opportunities to make this a better project for all those involved and to set that precedent,” he said.
The project is expected to return to the City Council on Sept. 11.